Sheldon the Spin-off: Will it be a success?

The cast of The Big Bang Theory

Yes, US nerd comedy The Big Bang Theory is to get a spin-off.

‘Young Sheldon’ will focus on awkward physicist Sheldon Cooper’s life as a child, whilst his mother will also appear in the show, played by Zoe Perry (the daughter of actress Laurie Metcalf, who plays Sheldon’s mother in the main show). Whether it will work as a story will be interesting to see; The Big Bang Theory is now well into season 10, and to be honest I wouldn’t be unhappy if it was the last.

Not that I don’t enjoy Big Bang – it was at one point my favourite comedy, and still remains a must-see – but it has been going steadily downhill for a few seasons now, turning from a comedy that very much focuses on a small group of stereotypically nerdy physicists/engineers (*cough* Howard *cough*) to one that very much focuses on the various relationships the characters have, from Howard, Bernadette and their baby, to Leonard and Penny’s now two-year-long marriage, to Sheldon and Amy’s she-is-a-girl-and-she-is-my-friend-and-now-she-is-my-girlfriend relationship., my favourite of the three. Unfortunately this has led to main character Raj and slightly-less-main-character Stuart becoming a little sidelined; it seems that they mostly appear in scenes relating to Howard and Bernadette – indeed, they are basically carers for the baby at this point.

It is a shame, as some of my best memories of the show come from before

most of these relationships – Sheldon’s pursuit of knowledge and

The cast of The Big Bang Theory
Sheldon (second-right) is to get a show of his own (Credit: Colorinchi)

complete indifference (bordering on negativity) to the idea of having a girlfriend, Leonard and Penny’s will-they-won’t-they friendship (admittedly the will-they-won’t-they was mostly on Leonard’s part) and Raj and Howard’s like-a-married-couple routine that was a great source of hilarity for the show. Other characters chipped in too; fellow physicist Leslie Winkle’s acerbic personality clashed often with Sheldon’s childlike behaviour, whilst Barry Kripke’s rivalry and resulting pranks with Sheldon were brilliant, at times (“Kripke, I found the nozzle, I’m going to kill you!”). Sadly, neither of these characters has played much of a role in recent seasons, and from this quarter at least both are greatly missed.

You might be able to tell, then, that Sheldon was, and to a certain extent still is, the main character in the show. His focus on his work and inability to deal with the real world was the driving force behind the comedy, and (in my case) is the character I identify with most, however I won’t delve too deeply into this as I have already written about it in a previous post (more news on that below).

The spin-off, then, could work. As I say, Sheldon is the driving force behind the show so using his character for the spin-off is, as he would be pleased to say, logical. Spin-offs of other shows have also been wildly successful in the past; my personal favourite comedy, Frasier, was itself a spin-off of Cheers, and arguably out-performed the original show. Certainly, having a then-record 37 Emmy wins isn’t to be sniffed at, and that record was only beaten relatively recently by Game of Thrones. Frasier was broadcast for 11 years, putting it at almost 30 episodes longer than Friends, and almost as many as Cheers. Not bad for a show about a pompous radio psychologist and his slightly dysfunctional family (incidentally, Frasier also had a will-they-won’t-they situation between his brother and his Father’s carer, and successfully managed to keep it fresh and funny for the majority of the run, until -spoilers – they finally confessed their love and ended up together).

Not all spin-offs have such good reviews though. Joey springs to mind here; a spin-off based off a character from a hugely successful show? Check. Using one of the more popular/funny main characters? Check. Except it evidently didn’t work as a concept; just 46 episodes spread over 2 seasons were broadcast before NBC pulled the plug. Both Joey and Frasier display similarities to Sheldon – Joey, one of the most popular characters from a successful and well-known sitcom; and Frasier, a highly intelligent but slightly egocentric man whose family and friends love him, but who sometimes struggle to get on with him. The difference, of course, is in how successful each show was.

But why? To be honest, I have no idea; there’s a reason I’m sat here,

Frasier Crane
Frasier is one example of a successful spin-off (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

writing blogs and in the final year of an astrophysics degree, rather than writing comedy and making people laugh in front of their televisions. What I do remember though is that with Joey, I chuckled occasionally and may even have properly laughed a couple of times); with Frasier, I was constantly laughing, and continue to watch old clips of the show. Apparently the majority of people felt the same way, leading Joey to be cancelled after just 2 seasons and Frasier to finish its run pretty much of its own accord after 11 seasons, drawing in a staggering 33.7 million American viewers for its final episode (a figure that equalled it’s best-ever rating). It probably helped that there were a lot of good characters surrounding Frasier, from the ever lovesick Niles to the ever suffering Martin Crane, not to mention Eddie, one of the best canine characters in any show I’ve seen.

So no guarantee of success for Young Sheldon. I’ll be interested to see it, certainly, and using Sheldon has given it the best possible chance, but with Big Bang being on its last legs Young Sheldon may well follow. Even I, someone who’s watched every episode at least once and has multiple seasons on DVD, am not overly excited at the prospect. I’m looking forward to it, sure, but not to the same degree as I look forward to something like Robot Wars, or the return of Firefly (one day, it will happen. One day…). Young Sheldon has to ask itself one question: ‘do I feel lucky’? Well, do you? We’ll find out later this year.

So, news. As some of you may know, I volunteered for a couple of years for my university’s student paper, writing similar blogs to this. In the end I wrote about ten, I think. With that being the case (and with me having left the paper some time ago due to increasing pressure and workload from my degree) I have emailed the relevant people asking if I can repost those articles on here and on Proctor Science, dependent on the type of content. I hope to get an answer soon, but am considering putting them up anyway as I wrote the blogs! It will of course be material that some of you have already read but it would be nice to have them in one place, and I feel that some of those articles are my best work, especially the one on mental health and the one on Twitch Plays Pokémon. So hopefully much more content coming soon! Otherwise I’ll keep posting when I can, but as I’m sure many of you understand I am in the final year of an Astrophysics degree and therefore reasonably busy! That being said, there should be another one up in two weeks regardless of assignments as I’ve already written it, so see you then!

All credited pictures from Flickr, used under the Creative Commons license found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

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Author: Stuart Proctor

I’m Stuart, an Astrophysics student from the UK. I’ve been a fan of sci-fi for a long time, and have decided to start writing a blog (The Last Nerd) about my experience of being a nerd, and proud of it! Additionally, my other blog, Proctor Science, focuses on science news, and my view on the scientific world. Enjoy!

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